Biblical Studies/New Testament Commentaries/The Gospel of Mark/Chapter 12

Mark 12:1-44 (Today's New International Version)
The Parable of the Tenants

1Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: "A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.

6 "He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 7 "But the tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 "What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven't you read this passage of Scripture: " 'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes' [a]?"

12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, "Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren't swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn't we?"

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. "Why are you trying to trap me?" he asked. "Bring me a denarius and let me look at it." 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose image is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

17 Then Jesus said to them, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." And they were amazed at him.

Marriage at the Resurrection

18Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19"Teacher," they said, "Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?"

24 Jesus replied, "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 26 Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? 27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!"

The Greatest Commandment

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Whose Son Is the Messiah?

35While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, "Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: " 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." '

37David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?" The large crowd listened to him with delight.

38As he taught, Jesus said, "Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,39and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely."

The Widow's Offering 41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."

The Parable of the Tenants


Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar




Some Pharisees and Herodians approach Jesus with a question regarding paying taxing in hopes of trapping him into saying something against God or Caesar. Jesus sees though their trickery and states wisely says “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”

Structurally analysis


_Pharisees and Herodians come to Jesus

_____They compliment him

__________"man of integrity”

__________“you aren’t swayed by men”

__________“you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth”

_____Then they ask “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

__________“Why are you trying to trap me?”

__________Jesus asks for a denarius

_______________He asks the crowd whose face is on it

____________________They respond “Caesar’s”

_______________Jesus tells the crowd to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”

____________________The crowd is amazed



Verse 13 The Sanhedrin adversaries from the previous parable continue their religious and political attack on Jesus. Here we see mention of Pharisees (teachers of the law) and Herodians (those who support government rule by the descendents of Herod, first mentioned in Mark 3:6). The word “catch” is one more often used to describe catching wild animals. This

Verse 14 The Pharisees and Herodians begin speaking to Jesus by calling him Teacher; this esteemed title was obviously used to hide then actually motives as we see later. They continue trying to soften Jesus right before they ask about paying taxes to Caesar. This question was formulated in attempts to force Jesus to choose a side for his Religion or for the Government. If Jesus was to claim that taxes must go to Caesar the people would hate him for they were very displeased by the Roman occupation and were in constant struggle. (Acts 5:37) However, if Jesus were to claim that taxes should not go to Rome he would surely invoke military action against him.

Verse 15 Jesus saw through their tricks and exposed it to the crowed by stating out loud “why are you trying to trap me?” Despite this Jesus decided to answer their question by use of a visual aid. A denarius which he requested is a small silver coin that is the chief currency of Rome from 211BC to the middle of the 3rd century AD.

Verse 16 The image on the silver denarius were probably that of Tiberius Caesar, who reigned from 14 to 37 AD, and the inscription followed something along the lines of “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augusts” and on the back “Chief Priest” These claims of divinity particularly angered Jews.

Verse 17 Jesus elegantly told the crowd to “give back” what belonged to Caesar, and then more importantly he told them to give to God: lit, “the things belonging to God.” This answer not only allowed him to escape from the Pharisees and Herodians trap, but also gave him a chance to stress the greatness of God over Caesar. It is possible that Jesus uses the word image for Caesar’s portrait so that it can be carried over to describing people as the images on God’s coins, because we are all created in God’s image (Gen 1:27) we must give to God what is God’s, ourself.

Parallel Passage


Marriage at the Resurrection


The Greatest Commandment


Whose Son Is the Messiah?


The Widow's Offering




Mark 12 consists of seven distinct sections that deal with various teaching from Jesus. In these passages Christ is in dialogue with either his disciples, different teachers of the law, or various followers. Throughout the dialogues we see members of the crowd attempting to trick and test Christ, only to find Christ’s response amazing.

(v. 1- v.12) The chapter begins with “The Parable of the Tenants.” In this parable we find the story of a vineyard owner who has left his newly created vineyard to farmers. Once it is time for harvest the owner sends a series of servants to collect and retrieve the fruit. However at the arrival of each of these servants, the farmers beat or kill them. Finally the owner sends his only son believing that they will have to listen to him, but the farmers kill him all the same. Jesus explains that when the owner discovers what has happened he will of course have the farmers killed.

This is a direct correlation to the past and future events involving the death of Christ. The vineyard is creation and the farmers are us. God sends prophets to tell of Christ but they are sent away or killed (John the Baptist). Finally God sends his only son Jesus, but he is also murdered.

(v.12-v.27) Here we see two sections of scripture where Jesus is speaking in response to a question of the Pharisees designed to trap him. The first being on the imperial tax to Caesar where the question is brought up on how can we give everything to God if we must tax to Caesar, to which Christ replies by showing the face of Caesar on a gold coin and explaining how this coin was not ours to begin with and must be given back to Caesar to needed. Next we find the suppose predicament of what will happen in the afterlife if one woman marries seven men during her lifetime. Jesus replies that their understanding of heaven is grossly misunderstood and that if they had read the scripture they would know that in the afterlife there are no concerns of family and marriage.

(v.28-v.34) “The Greatest Commandment” is found in the center of this chapter and I feel it is by far the most significant section of this chapter. According to the story, a teacher of the law who is impressed with Jesus’ ability to give good answers asks Christ what the most important commandment is. Christ responds that it is to love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. Next he continues to explain that the second most important commandment is to love your neighbor. Christ explains that these things are greater than burnt sacrifices.

I believe that this command to love God and people successfully summarizes what it means to be a Christian. I would go even father and state that the greatest way to achieve love for God is through love for people, and that our purpose as Christians or even humans is to love each other. (v.34-v.44) the chapter concludes with Jesus sharing a few more guidelines to live by. He warns those listing to him to be careful and not be as the teachers of the law who live in extravagant lives and flaunt their faith. A little later on he calls his disciples over and shows them a widow who is offering two small copper coins. Jesus explains to then that because she gave all she had, her gift is the greatest at the temple.